Tips and Tricks in Catching Crayfish!

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Updated On 10-17-11

 

The first tip I can give anyone is you need to have a crayfish trap in order to catch enough crayfish for a meal. They are indeed closely related to a lobster but these freshwater shellfish are not quite as big .

The second tip I always give everyone is that you need to own one of my crayfish traps if you want to catch enough crayfish for a meal rather than some other person's crayfish trap!

All kidding aside it is very important to have a good crayfish trap, good bait, and a good place to catch crayfish plus, a little knowledge thrown into the mix helps as well.

Its easy to solve finding the right crawfish trap. Buy one from me, it has proven itself to be the World's Leader in fishing for crawfish. 

Step 2, BAIT. Bait is ever so important, it makes all the difference in the world in catching 2 or 3 pounds per trap to catching 15 to 20 pounds of crawfish per crawfish trap. If the body of water you are fishing has a large population of crawfish, you can and will catch 15 to 20 pounds of crayfish during the prime time of the season with the correct bait. During the prime Bait Boxes are a must have. Don't confuse a bait box with a bait jar. There is a world of difference between the two and if you don't have the correct bait for a bait jar then you will have better luck catching crawfish with the trap sitting on dry land, A bait box on the other hand will allow the crawfish to feed and send a broadband of scent throughout the water for a longer period of time then a bait hook, the second best method. It is also far easier to freeze bait in extra bait boxes which fit nicely into gallon freezer bags. Fish heads, fish guts and skins, can be easily stored and frozen in a bait box, the goodies crawfish love the best.
Keep in mind that Crawfish are Picky Eaters, there is absolutely no question about that! So you must choose carefully the bait you intend to use. Fresh is the keyword and it MUST be fish based, none of this chicken or cat food crap which you hear about, grin. 
Crawfish are also BIG eaters, you must take that into account when baiting your trap. When the season gets prime, a commercial size trap should have at least a pound of bait in it and bait boxes are a must. 

For bait I use, salmon heads with gills, roe herring, roe shad, cod heads with guts. All bait HAS to be FRESH! If the bait is starting to turn, throw it away. Keep your bait frozen until you are ready to use it, then freeze what you have left if it's still good. If you don't have access to this type of bait and most don't, you'll need to find some type of fish which is extremely oily and probably local. Carp works as do most of the fish you can catch with rod and reel. Perch, walleye, and trout heads work, especially yellow perch and walleye. I did mention most, bullheads and catfish are not on the crawfish menu. Sardines, smelt, hooligans, sole, clams, eel, squid, are also on the not to good list. Crayfish are definitely picky eaters!
 A lot of fish are not very oily in their flesh but their heads and guts work fine. Any type of fowl, beef, pork, dog or cat food, DO NOT work well. I shutter every time I hear someone recommending using a can of cat food. DO NOT use a bait jar unless you have specially formulated bait to put in it. Bait jars just don't work. Bait boxes on the other hand will work provided they are made out of at least 1/2 inch mesh.-- Bait boxes allow the crayfish to tear at the flesh and spread even more scent into water. Whereas a bait jar only allows scent to slowly seep out of the jar and the scent can only cover a small area in the water plus giving out a weaker scent signal to boot.
 Hot Dog? Normally I would say no, but I have been received to many reports that hot dogs do work well. I haven't personally tried them for crayfish so I really don't know. So, with so many people claiming success with hot dogs one might give them a shot. The only thing I have noticed is that the report areas were in rusty crayfish states. Of course now rustys are in nearly all of the states, thanks to slow government movement on invasive species! 

Please re-read this bait section again, it is so important!

A good place to catch crayfish. You want to think about this for a minute or two . More crayfish are caught annually then all shellfish combined in the USA. Why? Because there are more crayfish areas to harvest then there are other shellfish, but like other shellfish you can't just throw in a trap and expect to catch them. Crayfish are populated in nearly every pond, lake, river, stream, or creek, all around you. Populations of crawfish are growing at a alarming rate and Fish & Game Departments in all states are aware of the threat crawfish impose upon Game Fish in Rivers and Lakes. Any excess crawfish you catch should not be returned to any body of water, basically it is now the law in most states. 

Look for areas which may provide cover for the crawfish such as rocks, roots, etc. Not only do these areas provide cover for the crayfish but the algae which grows in these areas is also a food base for the crayfish. These areas also give the crayfish a good place to hide while hunting for fish fry and any other moving critter they can capture and eat alive. It is pretty amazing how crawfish can catch even a six inch fish and hold it with their big pincers while they eat the poor fish while it tries to get away. 

With just this little bit of knowledge you now know that you will need to set your crayfish trap in an area of the water which will give the crayfish cover from the different predators plus a feeding ground for itself. The best areas have a lot of rocks, areas where rocks have been used to shore up the river or lake banks are the very best. These provide massive areas of deep cover and contain high populations of crayfish. Even natural rock slides will do the same or better. Heavy grass is also great cover crayfish but tend to hold lighter populations. Any ponds that do not contain fish can hold huge populations of crayfish. Streams, rivers, and creeks, all have good cover and a great drawing area for crayfish. Any pools that have formed you want to place your crayfish trap on the lower half pool for best results.

I'm often asked which is the best time to catch crayfish. A general rule of thumb is night time. Crayfish are predators with an appetite 500 times greater than a Belgian Tiger! Some species such as the Rusty crayfish have 3 times the appetite of a normal crayfish. It is a very large misconception that crayfish are vegetarians, it is true that they will eat plant life but their primary diet is live fish they can catch. Night time gives the crayfish a huge advantage in catching fish and I've seen adult crayfish catch and eat trout up to 6 inches in length during the daylight. It is pretty amazing how adept hunters crayfish are even during the daylight. They will strike from above, pounce like coyotes, and stalk fish like cats stalking a bird. With the explosive populations of crayfish all across the USA I'm very surprised we even have game fish left for the sportsman and it's true that in many areas the Game Fish have been wiped out. With that said the quick answer is night time trapping is the best unless the Lake is so overrun with crayfish the traps are flooded at the first smell of bait, and there is a lot of Lakes and Rivers like that. 


One of the main worries people have about night fishing is leaving their traps unattended and subject to theft. This is understandable but you do not have to allow trap theft. I have devoted a web page explaining in detail how to avoid trap theft completely. It's quite lengthy but well worth the read. Click Here to view that page.

I've been getting a lot of requests on how to use your crawfish trap in rivers. Rivers can be a bit difficult to trap but the rewards you will reap are often very amazing. This will take up a little room so I'm devoting a separate web page to the topic.
Trapping Rivers 101 - Page is under construction.

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Crayfish Traps, Link to no frames site map for both metal detecting and crayfish traps

 

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